It’s Time to Shake Up your Succession Planning

By Liz Wiseman

Originally posted in the St. Louis Post Dispatch - October 28th, 2014.

Too often well-meaning managers shield their employees from change and disruption, essentially placing a do not disturb sign on the employee’s door.

While employees may seem temporarily relieved, could it be that they are actually unhappy when they are cloistered and comfortable? When is it time to disturb someone, wake them up, and lead them into a discomfort zone?

My research focused on just these questions: When are employees ready to be challenged and how much of a challenge can they actually handle? We asked approximately one thousand individuals to indicate how long it took them to:

1) Figure out their current role

2) Be ready for their next big challenge,

3) Be ready for a new role, and

4) Begin to feel stale in their current role.

In general, we found that after receiving a challenging assignment, people:

  • Have figured out their role within three months
  • Are ready for the next big challenge within just three months
  • Are ready for a new role within one year
  • Begin to feel stale within two years

When we analyzed the data by job role we found that individual contributors are the first to feel stale and the first to be ready to tackle a new challenge. Middle managers, on the other hand, report being ready for an entirely new job or role the soonest.

Given that the majority of employees are ready for a new challenge every three months and ready for a new role at one year, what can you do to prevent your workforce from getting stale?

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